It was just another unassuming day at Snider High School: students milled about the hallway, friends giggled as they walked to lunch, teachers sat grading papers. But in the gym commons, the librarian and her library media assistants were setting up for an author visit.
E Lockhart, the New York based author of popular novel We Were Liars, came to Snider for a book signing and to give a presentation on creativity on Monday, October 7th.
In terra cotta culottes and a black sweater, Lockhart strode confidently to the table displaying two of her best-sellers. As she signed the first copy of Genuine Fraud, a student asked Lockhart about the message of her books.
“I don’t believe books should have a message,” she said simply. “A novel is an exploration of something that is too complicated to say in a simple message.”
How does Lockhart expect readers to relate to the characters in We Were Liars, a novel about a beautiful and distinguished family that takes place primarily on a private island?
“Well,” she said, “this is also a book about teenagers in a family that fights, and almost every kid has a family that fights at least some, and kids feel, I think, really disempowered when that happens. And as you get to be a teenager, you feel like you have opinions about these adults that you live with and how they behave and what they’re doing. And [the adults] don’t care that you have these feelings… so hopefully, if I’ve done my job, you can relate to that.”
Why did Lockhart chose to use a wealthy family on a private island as the setting for We Were Liars?
“We like to tell stories about royalty, right?” Lockhart said. “You know, on TV and in the news media, these people are kind of like American royalty and that’s because those stories seem big, they seem like a larger scale maybe than an ordinary family drama… and so that’s kind of also what I was playing with, taking things that happen in everyday families and exaggerating them and making them bigger by putting them in this kind of [setting].”
Writers block can hit anyone, so how do established authors fight it?
“I power through,” she said, “in a really painful way. I just force myself to write terrible junk but it’s always better to have written than not have written.”
Many young authors and creatives dream of getting published, so what does Lockhart recommend to elevate one’s craft?
“I would just say that you get good by doing, and that in order to write effectively, you have to mentally kill off your mother, father, grandparents, friends—everybody—because if you’re writing for people who are going to have a lot of complicated feelings about what you write, you are going to be censoring yourself and judging what you write before it gets on the page, so you can worry about those people later.”
Lockhart’s advice for aspiring authors and creatives?
“Right now your job is to just write without fear of reception and to just keep going even when it seems like it’s going terribly, because it’s like exercise….you are not going to be awesome at the pole vault the first time you pole vault—you will fall down and that is the same with writing. You just keep pole vaulting and you eventually do it… [You just have to] get rid of all those imaginary critics.”
Lockhart’s books are available at any book retailer.